November 1, 2001

Ortega close to comeback as Nicaraguan campaign closes

                 MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) -- Daniel Ortega, whose Sandinista party shot its
                 way into power 22 years ago, is trying to regain the presidency with a
                 message of peace and love.

                 Ortega headed the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which overthrew dictator
                 Anastasio Somoza and defied the mighty United States by establishing a socialist
                 government aligned with Cuba and the Soviet bloc from 1979 to 1990.

                 Ortega, who is trying to regain the presidency during elections here Sunday, has
                 since shed his revolutionary rhetoric -- and his olive green fatigues.

                 His campaign has at times resembled a 1960s peace rally, full of flowers, fireworks
                 and flag-waving. He now dresses in casual pants and a pink shirt and often wears a

                 The campaign -- dubbed "the path of love" -- has papered the country with lurid
                 pink posters with slogans such as "love will bloom" and "we will build the promised

                 "It has been proven that love is stronger than hate," Ortega told thousands of
                 followers at a stripped cornfield in Nindiri, just east of Managua, where he closed
                 his presidential campaign Wednesday in a statistical tie with his opponent Enrique

                 The 55-year-old leader who spent much of the 1980s battling U.S.-backed Contra
                 rebels, appealed for reconciliation as his backers unfurled a large U.S. flag behind

                 Bolanos, who had most of his property confiscated by the Sandinistas in the early
                 1980s, is backed by the ruling Constitutionalist Liberal Party and served as
                 President Arnoldo Aleman's vice president until resigning to kick off his presidential
                 campaign this summer.

                 At his own rally at a baseball stadium in the nearby city of Masaya, Bolanos called
                 Ortega's newly discovered softer side a "hypocrisy" and said that "love and peace
                 are bait to lure us into a mousetrap."

                 "We cannot forget the many times (Ortega) said that religion was the opiate of the
                 people," he told s upporters.

                 Bolanos' campaign has sought to remind Nicaraguans of the economic hardships
                 and wartime suffering common during the Sandinista regime. Experts still debate,
                 however, whether the most damage was done by Sandinista bungling or by
                 Washington's attempts to destroy Nicaragua's economy and to finance a war
                 against its government.

                 Bolanos, 73, is viewed by many as honest, but critics accuse him of remaining
                 silent while serving as second-in-command during Aleman's corruption-marred

                 The latest public opinion polls put Bolanos and Ortega in a statistical tie leading up
                 to Sunday's vote.

                 In country where a flurry of political parties have come into existence in the past 10
                 years, the Sandinistas and the Liberals combined to reform the constitution, making
                 it almost impossible for other parties to get on the presidential ballot.

                 The two dominant parities split the right to make key appointments in this country's
                 courts and federal agencies as part of the deal that shut out would-be political foes.

                 U.S. officials have repeatedly expressed concern about a victory by the Sandinistas,
                 whose massive expropriations of properties are still a point of conflict between the
                 two countries.

                 Openly supporting the Liberals, U.S. Ambassador Oliver Garza invited Bolanos to
                 an October 16 ceremony where he handed out U.S.-donated food in a poor village.

                 Ortega has formed alliances with members of parties backed by the United States
                 during the war, including Antonio Lacayo, son-in-law of former president Violeta
                 Chamorro; and Miriam Arguello and Joaquin Jarquin, both of whom were jailed by
                 the Sandinistas.

                 But Garza told reporters Tuesday that "the appointment of persons associated with
                 past democratic governments does not change the concern we have."

                  Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.